Out on A Different Boardwalk

Ananda Day - Senegal


October 7, 2009

Under the boardwalk, out of the sun
Under the boardwalk, we’ll be havin’ some fun,

Under the boardwalk, we’ll be fallin in love.

As the sun beat down today, lifting moisture into the air and slowly boiling us, Gaya, Matt, our guide Adama, and I walked along the boardwalks of Dakar… and by that I mean we went to the markets.

Back to the beginning though. This morning Gaya, Hilary, Victoria, and I- the Four Toubabs- made our way to the post office for some spectacular spending of mail. Two things- 1) In order to hear the post worker say anything, you had to lower you head to the counter in order to hear through the hole the really, really, fast French being sent to you 2) You must be careful with the change that you walk in with, as they prefer to only give you lucky amounts of change back. Unfourtunately I had no change, forcing me to recieve the unlucky coins back in my hands.

It was then off to Dakar for all six of us, in the homiest transport methods possible: Car Rapides, the busses, and the DDDs. Essentially, when ever you feel a little bit lonely, you should always go through one of these meathods of transport, as you will be sure to have people close to you you. In all honesty they give you a new respect for the wind. Along with the silly things though, they are also beyond amazing. Senegal has no public transit maps. Instead, every single ‘map’ is passed down orally, so in order to find out where one of the car rapieds is going, you must ask. Specifically, the car rapides are also stunning to look at. Painted cerulean blue, sunflower yellow, and white they usually have massive amounts of random stickers on them- from skateboard companies like Hurley, to local companies. In addition to this you will always see two men hanging onto the doors in the back (yes, I fear for their lives, I mean, walking is a task that requires full attention, I can’t really imagine just hanging out the back of a car that accelerates as fast as it can and then slams on the breaks). One will collect the money, and the other lets the driver know if they need to stop.

As we stepped out of our DDD bus, it was into a sight that is both breathtaking over whelming. Street vendors lining every single foot of the street, people milling about in a seamess mass, cars and taxies zooming through while avoiding each other by centimeters, and the smells, oh the smells. The sensory overload took hold – a brilliant mix of the green dekka (do not hold me to that spelling) fruit next to the reds, blues, and greens of English Premier League jerseys, the wafting scents of sticky sweat, roasting nuts, the mangos sitting in the sun, and burning trash piles, and lastly the collective breath in an out as people stomp and swagger through the streets, talking, whispering, singing along with the songs, as they went out trying to make a sale.

I cannot truly explain this first moment and the emotions it raised. There was the expected surprise, fear (pickpockets, getting lost), hunger pains (so, I like food). What really struck me though, was just the sweetness of letting everything hit me – soaking it all in. Enjoying telling of the following sellers with my few words of Wolof as I looked for the next seller to bargain with. It was just… beautiful. Disgusting, stunning, amazing – and beautiful. So yes, I’m starting to fall in love on the boardwalk, not with a person, but instead with Senegal.

Facts of  the Day

-Gaya is the most amazing bargainer in the world

-Coca Cola products make me happy on days that you feel like you’re baking

-The cashews here are ridiculously delicious

-Senegalese people love Celine Dion and Akon.

-I ran into three inanimate objects today, two of them trees. I really should have brought lucky change for the post office.

Ananda Day